Physiotherapists (NOC 3142)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

Physiotherapists plan and put treatment programs in place to maintain, improve or rebuild physical ability, ease pain and prevent physical problems for patients.

Watch the video below to see what a day in the life of a physiotherapist is like.

Physiotherapists need a deep understanding of how the body works as well as the causes, prevention and treatment of injury and disease. They must pay attention to details and be skilled in looking at a situation from all sides in order to make safe and effective decisions about patient care. A person with this job also needs to have leadership and teamwork skills to work well with other healthcare providers.

Common job titles
  • co-ordinator, clinical physiotherapy
  • physiotherapist
  • physiotherapist, clinical
  • physiotherapist, registered
  • therapist, physical - clinical, consultant

Duties

In general, physiotherapists:

  • Understand a patient’s physical abilities by reviewing the patient’s history, testing their physical abilities and measuring their progress in getting better
  • Develop treatment goals based on diagnosis with the patient or the patient's family
  • Set up programs such as exercise, electrotherapy or education based on the patient’s needs and abilities
  • Review results to track patient improvement or to change treatment
  • Communicate with health-care professionals and team members about a patient’s needs
  • Keep detailed records of a patient's treatment and progress
  • Do research in physiotherapy and related areas
  • Develop physical health promotion programs and screening tools
  • Provide education and consulting services to the public and other health-care professionals

In some public practices such as acute care, there is a trend towards those in this career offering discharge planning: making sure the patient leaves the hospital safely, facilitating a smooth process and that they get the right care afterwards.

The move toward sending patients home earlier impacts private practice physiotherapy. Clinics are now providing patients with sub-acute care after joint replacement surgeries as well as treating neurological conditions that were previously handled through inpatient or outpatient services.

Work environment

Physiotherapists practice in a range of public sector and private settings, including hospitals, private clinics, home care, child-development centres, extended-care facilities, in academics and administration, and health-planning agencies. People in this career often work as part of a health-care team, but do many other duties on their own. Many physiotherapists in Canada have their own private clinics and may provide home care.

Full-time physiotherapists who work in the public sector typically work a 36-hour week. Evening and weekend work may be required. Those in private practice usually work 36-50 hours per week. Some jobs, especially in rural regions and in-home care, may require travel.

Recently, there have been large increases in home care, both publicly and privately funded. This is due to the increase in releasing acute patients from hospitals. There has also been an increase in the number of private physiotherapy practices over the past 10 years.

People in this job may use electrophysical agents such as ultrasound, laser and electrical stimulation devices. Possible health risks that come from the use of these devices (for both patient and operator) can be managed by using the devices properly and following the right process in treatment.

In most work settings, a physiotherapist will lift, bend and walk often. They also use their hands and upper body during patient treatment. Risk of injury that comes with these tasks may be managed by making sure that the treatment is done properly and by using special devices that help with moving patients.

Job satisfaction among physiotherapists is high. There are many opportunities to travel and work around the world, and to work in a variety of settings with flexible schedules.

Insights from industry

A growing and aging population will need more health services, which will mean a greater demand for physiotherapists. Demand for people in this career will also increase as more people make their health a priority.

Job openings will occur as a result of retiring workers. Industry sources report that the number of new graduates will not meet the current and future needs for employment as physiotherapists retire. B.C. relies on graduates from other provinces and countries to meet this need.

While there are not enough physiotherapists throughout the province, job vacancies in the northern regions, in the Lower Mainland and some areas on Vancouver Island are generally harder to fill. For employers in areas that have a harder time attracting people in this job, the B.C. provincial government has offered loan forgiveness programs to physiotherapist graduates who choose to work in these regions.

For more details on this program, visit the StudentAid BC website at: https://studentaidbc.ca/repay/repayment-help/bc-loan-forgiveness-program

The services provided by physiotherapists keep changing due to new information, technology, service demands and settings. New technology and information may result in workers taking on more specialized roles. This will also influence educational requirements, as additional training will be needed.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Physiotherapists often choose to combine work and travel early in their career. An example of this would be working with travelling sports teams. New graduates often work in a range of settings, which allows them to decide on their area of special interest prior to taking a full-time position.

By continuing professional development, physical therapists can move into specialized areas that target specific groups or issues. Geriatrics, orthopedics, burns, pediatrics and neurology are some examples of these fields of practice.

Physiotherapists are known for continuing their education and training through professional development courses. With more than 30 areas of specialization, there are many paths to follow. Most private practice physiotherapists begin by working in clinics as associates and may become owners of clinics later in their careers as they develop clinical and business expertise.

Additional resources